Sunday, February 04, 2007

what's in a word?

“I’m not a purist” he said, rolling his eyes to the ceiling, “but … stuft? Stuft?!” He ranted on, “I despair at the bastardization of today’s English language. In my agency, the copywriter would have been fired! For laziness, for lack of originality, for sheer bad copywriting … ”

I had to agree; I’ve worked with copywriters who have been fired for those very reasons. But over the last month or so I’ve noticed the following terms prominently posted on large ads in print and commercial media.

• Get your pix kwiker here (in-and-out photo developers)
• Adult filmz (does the Z make them more / less x-rated?)
• Pick up your kool skool gear (speaks for itself)
• Tableized or columnated (formatting preferences listed on software ad)
• Kleen green and mean to weeds (weed/word killer)

… and the list goes on. Even the limited and often questionable capabilities of the most generic word processor flags those terms in red! But is it a big deal?

I think it is, and I’ll tell you why. Literacy is important to individual, cultural, and societal development. Yet, regardless of native tongue, almost everything we read or hear in the media today is already reduced to high school’s 6th-grade level, which — for reasoning that eludes me — has been deemed an acceptable standard across the great United States.

If we allow further reduction of our language, via phonetic and cutesy or lazy phrasing in media, I question where we’ll find ourselves in 20, 10, or even 5 years, from now. Back in the cave, grunting along with our Neanderthal ancestors? Or, more realistically in our digitally-exploding culture, “ … txtng jst t-bscs nd rdng ths in bks nd nwspprs 2”.

As we lose and abuse the rules of language, we also lose an important part of our heritage. And no matter where we were born or raised, or where we choose to live, there are some aspects of heritage that are intrinsic to our being and that we have a responsibility to share with the next generation.

Let’s not roll over in complacency. I vote we embrace the nuances between the interpretations of one word, and one language, over another. And that we put pressure on advertisers and the corporations who drive our governments to hold to literacy standards we can be proud of!

What do you think … is it a big deal?

12 comments:

mist1 said...

Kwik comment:

Kute post.

Pamela said...

we are all guilty as charged.
:-(

kj said...

i agree, bibi. i don't know most of the trade short-cuts you've mentioned, but cut corners mean cut language. i admit i use "btw" and "pix". now i will think about even that.

and as of mist'l, well, laughing at ourselves is important too.....!

have a good week!

John Ivey said...

Until a language is dead it is ever evolving. New words are added, others discarded and grammar revised. But to blatantly bastardize a language is literary blasphemy. The United States literacy rate is bad enough without klever adz konfusing our kids, and dare I say a good many adults. I am with you on this, Bibi.

deirdre said...

Thank you, thank you. I'm so tired of reading words that have been deliberately mis-spelled.

dinahmow said...

My hobby horse! Thankyou, Bibi.

Ces said...

I think computer jargon is altogether a different subject matter. Who is to say that the person using OMG and BTW are really excellent memo writers in the corporate world - when the written language matters.

Languages evolve otherwise we will still be speaking in Old English, Middle English, Middle French, Latin, and all those extinct languages that are now just an entry in the ethnologue list?

However, I cannot stand the bastardization, murder and pure adulteration of words such as those mentioned in your post.

No wonder little children spell QUICK as KWIK because their parents have been to the Kwik Copy store.

I love the English language and any act of word mutilation makes me uncomfortable:

eatable instead of edible
doable instead of feasible

Those stupid managers and directors should keep their mouths shut.

Bibi said...

Glad to read I'm not alone in wanting to preserve some of our language as we know it!

Bibi said...

Having blogger issues here ... but yes, Diedre, my pet peeve too.

KJ, I too use shortcuts; just don't like them in published material.

And Ces, I find myself doubting myself when I hear newscasters (who used to drive the English language) turning nouns into verbs.

Must make it very confusing for internationals trying to learn the language, and for school kids!

Bibi said...

John, I just bought a new dictionary because words have evolved so much ... but I agree, there's a difference between evolution and bastardization.

Within Without said...

With you completely and utterly, Bibi.

I think it's the electronic media and advert copywriters and big companies that are most to blame...they're using our language to dumb things down to sell their products or to be cutesy.

And it's somehow become acceptable to do that. And it's wrong.

Bibi said...

ww- you're right and I'm afraid we'll find those cutesy versions replacing the correct words in our dictionaries soon!